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Teacher's life dedicated to music

Instrumental inclination

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POSTED: July 20, 2011 1:45 p.m.
Photo by Katie McGurl/

Mary Lee Pennington, here playing the violin, teaches music lessons in Richmond Hill and at her home in Georgetown.

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When someone hails from Nashville, Tenn., it’s a safe bet that they’ve got music in their blood.

“Music City” native Mary Lee Pennington, 83, is a prime example.

Pennington, now a music teacher in Richmond Hill and surrounding areas, has been playing piano for 77 years.

“My mother instilled it in me,” said Pennington. “She sang.”

The octogenarian also sings, and her repertoire of instruments includes violin and cello.

“The first time I knew that I was a musician was when I did my tax return,” she recalled. “Up at the top of the return where it asks occupation, (my accountant) put ‘musician.’ I said ‘is that what I am?’ I was directing a church choir at the time and I didn’t exactly know that that’s what I was!”

Pennington’s musical career began when she received free piano lessons as a child.

“The lessons were free for ten years from the same teacher; it was during the Depression and people couldn’t afford lessons, but there were people that were kindhearted,” she explained.

The musician attended Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in piano.
She married after college and her husband’s career brought them to Savannah. Pennington pursued a master’s degree in voice at Georgia Southern University in the early ’90s. It was during that time that she met Martha Hall, then director of Bryan County Community Education. Through Hall, Pennington began teaching music lessons in Pembroke and Richmond Hill.

Today, she teaches students in her Georgetown home and at a studio in Richmond Hill. She still takes classes, now at Armstrong Atlantic State University, because she believes it’s important for a music teacher to keep learning.
“I love music and I love children, and I want to impart that love of music to the students, regardless of age,” she said.

Besides giving piano, voice, violin and cello lessons, Pennington has a summer job playing the organ at White Bluff Presbyterian Church, and she regularly sings with church choirs. She has also played cello for the Georgia Southern Symphony.

“When you get 83 years old, you’re so thankful that you’re alive and you’re able to connect with people, and people don’t look down on you because you’re older,” Pennington said.  “Most people think being older is good from a teaching standpoint because you know more … they figure you’ve put a lot of years in it. And I have.”

Pennington is always accepting new students. Lessons cost $15 per half hour. She may be reached at (912) 921-8642.

 

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